Clipper fleet clears the Bay of Biscay

The race viewer indicates this morning that Hull & Humber may have won the Battle of Biscay. With only a few miles to go before rounding Cape Finisterre the team has a comfortable lead on the rest of the fleet.

Overnight several of the teams, the current leaders included, have been struggling with sailing under spinnaker in the dark, resulting in several wraps and the challenge of unwrapping a sail the size of a tennis court at night. Skipper of Hull & Humber, Piers Dudin, says, “Unfortunately whilst gybing last night the end of our spinnaker pole managed to poke a hole in the kite, causing a small rip, which was a shame but not a disaster. So we decided to take it down. Before we did so, whilst in the process of putting up the Yankee instead, the spinnaker, obviously in a bit of a huff for having a hole put in it by the pole, decided to wrap itself around the forestay. In the end we managed to get away with minor damage and a lot of good experience at how to unwrap kites during the night with next to no visibility!”

Despite having issues with their spinnaker Hull & Humber's decision to stay further offshore as they head towards Cape Finisterre has paid dividends. Joining them and chasing hard is the team from Ireland with Cork's skipper, Richie Fearon, reporting a good spinnaker run overnight. At the back of the fleet Edinburgh Inspiring Capital has also gybed away from the coast having a suffered a tough day and night of racing. “It's been a very long 24 hours!” exclaims skipper Matt Pike. “The guy snapped due to chafe on the snap shackle and unfortunately the halyard ran which resulted in the kite getting washed. This was followed by a long night of frustrating variable winds, although I did manage to get a few hours sleep. So, dawn rises, the medium spinnaker is up and Edinburgh Inspiring Capital is back in the race.”

Of those who have chosen a more inshore route on the approach to Cape Finisterre, a battle is ensuing at the front of the pack between Qingdao, Spirit of Australia and Team Finland.

“Our midnight log entry simply read “trimming like demons!” which is exactly what we've been doing, ” says Brendan Hall, skipper of the Australian entry. “This drag race to Finisterre has been an interesting little battle. I'm surprised at how much the fleet has spread out, with almost 70 nautical miles between first and last place. We're glad to be somewhere in the middle. We just trim, trim, trim and we seem to storm past any boats which show up on our horizon. We have a little sign by the companionway hatch that reads “persistence and energy conquer all things”. How true this is.”

Feeling the pressure from the Finnish and Australian teams, skipper of Qingdao, Chris Stanmore-Major, sent the following report last night. “Two green lights shine out in the darkness behind us as I write this, one above Team Finland and one above Spirit of Australia. I know that aboard those boats our tiny single swaying star fills them with an ever increasing determination to drive their boats as well as they can. Here we know that if we make one mistake they will pounce on us, so our every decision is weighed and balanced against the options and every job is checked twice.”

All the teams now face the tactical decision of whether to stay close to the Portuguese coast and benefit from the south flowing current or go further offshore where, at the moment, the winds are forecast to be more reliable.

Clipper Race Director, Joff Bailey, says, “Once clear of Biscay and out into the Atlantic the tacticians will have to start making some long range navigational decisions regarding what to do at the Canary Islands and the scoring gate 200 nautical miles south west of them. I suspect that the majority of the teams will try and stay close to the Rhumb line, which will see the fleet spread in a north south direction as they race towards the gate and the first points in this race.

Positions at 0600 GMT, Thursday 24 September 2009
Boat: Latitude Longitude DTF
Hull & Humber 44.16.53N 8.16.53W 4506nm
Qingdao 43.56.00N 7.24.03W 4526nm
Spirit of Australia 43.58.03N 7.17.40W 4531nm
Cork 44.30.52N 7.41.51W 4533nm
Team Finland 43.59.14N 7.15.02W 4533nm
Uniquely Singapore 44.03.12N 6.54.43W 4549nm
Cape Breton Island 43.57.05N 6.47.02W 4552nm
California 44.07.36N 6.45.52W 4556nm
Jamaica Lightning Bolt 44.06.08N 6.32.13W 4565nm
Edinburgh Inspiring Capital 44.30.06N 6.20.35W 4581nm

Full details of positions, updated every three hours can be found at

Jeanneau JY60
M.O.S.S Australia
West Systems
Jeanneau JY55
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Cyclops Marine